On Friday, President Vladimir Putin declared that Russia has achieved significant progress in the development of its missile defense systems.
"We will perfect our missile strike capability to preserve balance, only because of that," he said.
The president also stressed that Moscow will be forced to respond to Western encroachment despite the fact that it will be accused of "Russian aggression," adding that it is important to maintain the strategic balance of forces.
"Starting from 2000’s Russia has been in a very difficult position… Who would think that Russia would be able to build up strategic defenses… But we have warned that we would do it, we said about it and we are doing it. I assure you that today Russia has achieved substantial success on this path. We have modernized our complexes and are successfully developing the new generation. I am not even talking about missile defense systems," Putin said.
The comments came during the president's speech during the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.
Missile defense systems have become a thorny issue between Russia and the West, with the inauguration of a NATO missile defense shield in Romania last month, and future plans for a similar installation in Poland. America's long-range rocket capabilities also present a threat.
"We even know in what year, approximately, Americans will get a new rocket that will be not 500 kilometers, but 1,000, and then more, and from that moment they will start to threaten our nuclear potential," the Russian president said.
Russian warplanes struck rebels fighting with Islamic State militants, including forces backed by the United States, in southern Syria on Thursday, a senior U.S. defense official said.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, criticized the Russian air strikes near al-Tanf and said no Russia or Syrian ground forces were in the area at the time.
“Russia’s latest actions raise serious concern about Russian intentions,” the official said.
“We will seek an explanation from Russia on why it took this action and assurances this will not happen again.”
British-based monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said warplanes had struck a meeting of U.S.-backed forces fighting against Islamic State in al-Tanf village, near the al-Tanf border crossing with Iraq, killing two fighters and wounding four others.
It said it was unclear whose planes had carried out the attack, however.
Washington has consistently refused to join forces with Russia in Syria against Islamic State ever since Moscow launched its campaign of air strikes in September last year, accusing it of acting solely to prop up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The United States has called on Assad to step down.
Communication between the U.S. and Russian militaries on Syria has been limited to contacts aimed at avoiding an accidental clash as they carry out rival bombing campaigns and small numbers of U.S. forces operate on the ground.
When the democratically elected President of Ukraine was violently overthrown in February 2014 and replaced by a rabidly anti-Russian regime, not only the residents in the areas of Ukraine that had voted heavily for him (Crimea having voted 75% for him, and Donbass having voted 90% for him) were terrified by what they viewed to be a bloodthirsty new regime, but Russians were, too, because the dictators who were installed made clear their hatred of Russians and even of speakers of the Russian language – one of their first legislative initiatives was to outlaw the Russian language, but the blatant hatred there made the proposal die in Ukraine’s parliament because this new regime needed outside support, and outlawing a language spoken by around half of the nation’s population would have sparked international condemnation.
Shortly after Crimeans voted overwhelmingly on 16 March 2014 to separate from Ukraine and to rejoin Russia, of which Crimea had been a part until the Soviet dictator Nikita Khrushchev arbitrarily transferred Crimea to Ukraine in 1954, the top military commander at NATO, US General Philip Breedlove, said that because Russia had protected Crimeans from invasion by the newly installed Ukrainian regime, which was threatening Crimeans if they were to hold a referendum to separate from Ukraine, «now it is very clear that Russia is acting much more like an adversary than a partner», and he speculated sarcastically about the «next place where Russian-speaking people may need to be incorporated» into Russia – as if the people of Crimea didn’t have a good reason to fear the new regime, and as if speakers of the Russian language in all countries were in the same situation and needed the same protection; and as if NATO itself had any right to comment about this matter at all, since Ukraine isn’t even a member-nation of NATO anyway. Ukraine is a nation that shares a long border with Russia, but does this give NATO a right to ‘defend’ Ukraine from ‘Russian aggression’? Is NATO trying to provoke a Russian invasion in order for NATO to have a pretext to launch a full-scale nuclear war?
Why was the top military commander of NATO commenting on this at all? He was representing the US President, not the people of Ukraine, and certainly not the people of Crimea. The people of Crimea had good reason to be terrified by the new regime, but Obama’s general who was running NATO’s military operations, didn’t care about that at all.
Why does the US government not care about the rights of ethnic Russians in countries which border on Russia, and which treat like dirt people whose families had moved there from Russia? Is the US government trying to goad Russia into protecting those people, too?
Why was General Breedlove (who hardly breeds love for oppressed people of Russian descent) mocking Russian President Vladimir Putin about the «next place where Russian-speaking people may need to be incorporated»?
Is Obama trying to force Putin to either lose face at home, or else to ‘provoke’ a NATO invasion, in order to provide NATO an ‘excuse’ to attack?
On 4 May 2016, Breedlove’s successor, US General Curtis M. Scaparrotti, took over from Breedlove, and he condemned «an aggressive Russia… a resurgent Russia trying to project itself as a world power». If the US government has a right to «project itself as a world power», then why doesn’t the Russian government possess the same right – especially in order to defend itself? The headline of that news report from the US Department of ‘Defense’ was «‘Resurgent Russia’ Poses Threat to NATO, New Commander Says», but precisely what ‘threat’ Russia poses to NATO wasn’t even suggested there, other than the vague charge of a «resurgent Russia striving to project itself as a world power».
Is General Scaparrotti trying to goad Putin to either lose face at home, or else to ‘provoke’ a NATO invasion?
But now NATO is staging Operation Atlantic Resolve, their biggest-ever military maneuvers on Russia’s borders. This includes nuclear weapons.
When the Soviet dictator Nikita Khrushchev tried to plant Soviet missiles 90 miles from the US in 1962, the American President, John Fitzgerald Kennedy was ready to go to a nuclear attack against the Soviet dictatorship; this was the Cuban Missile Crisis. Will Russian President Vladimir Putin soon be ready to go to a nuclear attack against the new American dictatorship, which is moving much farther against Russia’s democracy now, than the Soviet dictatorship ever did against America’s democracy then?
Does Obama think he’s playing some kind of game here? Khrushchev didn’t think it was any game; nor did Kennedy. Khrushchev backed down, in a deal in which the previous US President’s, Dwight Eisenhower’s, initiation of installation of US missiles in Turkey against the Soviet Union were also removed. Kennedy negotiated an elimination of both Eisenhower’s and Khrushchev’s provocative and dangerous acts, in a nuclear-armed world. Putin has been careful not to do anything that threatens the US, except to protect Russia from what by now is clearly US aggression. But the fact that a democratic Russia has not violated a now dictatorial US, constitutes no excuse for US Presidents continuing the aggression that US President George Herbert Walker Bush started against democratic Russia.
Meanwhile, we have blatant NATO propaganda spread on German public television, asking «Is NATO expansion to blame for Crimean crisis?» and answering: not only no, but «just change NATO’s name» and we all should ignore Russia’s worries about the hostile US military alliance that has spread right up to Russia’s borders and that’s intent upon posting nuclear missiles minutes from Moscow.
Do Western leaders really think that Western publics are stupid and callous enough to believe that? Is the leaders’ presumption, about this, correct? Is this the reason why nuclear war is getting perilously close while Western publics are worried about it little if at all?
Russian President Vladimir Putin extended an olive branch on Friday to the European Union (EU), whose sanctions on Moscow are up for renewal in July.
"The European Union … remains the key trading partner of Russia. It is our closest neighbor … and of course we do care about what is happening in our neighboring states," Putin said in a conference at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) in Russia.
Relations between Russia and the West have deteriorated since the EU and U.S. imposed sanctions on Moscow after its incursion in Crimea in 2014 and its alleged role in the pro-Russian uprising in eastern Ukraine. Russia responded with counter-sanctions on European and U.S. food imports.
"Russia did not initiate the … downturn in relations … We do not hold a grudge against anybody," Putin said.
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi shared the stage with Putin on Friday, in a move that was criticized by some EU countries – typically those on Russia's border – that strike a hard line on Moscow.
"It is obvious there are problems in the relation between Europe and Russia ... and each has their own opinion of where it stemmed from," Renzi said in his own speech on Friday.
Come July, EU diplomats say sanctions may be softened but extended by a further six months, according to media reports. There are signs of disagreement among EU members, with Baltic countries on Russia's borders typically keener on maintaining tough sanctions, while countries like Greece have flagged the possibility of tailing them off. Consensus between all 28 EU member states is necessary to extend sanctions before they expire in July.
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